31.8.10

literary feeding time, round 3

freya
Lepht Anonym
31.08.10
-----------------------

I did it. I burned it all. I know, Dr. Hawkins, that when you read this mail you will scream and cry and bemoan the loss of the world's only specimens of that vile perversion of Nature; I know what you will tell everyone left in the lab - everyone who survived the fire, everyone who didn't get the fuck out when I told them to or who tried to get past me to where you, Dr. Hawkins, were growing that stuff - you'll tell them it was a cure for something or other, won't you, you'll say it was penicillin all over again, a biological panacaea, you'll tell them what you told me, you bastard, won't you. You'll try and save your fucking skin.

They won't believe you this time, Doc. Not when those recordings get out. You see, Dr. Hawkins, I am not as stupid as you thought I was when you hired me; rejected from every PhD programme I've applied for? 2:2 mycobiology MSc? Oh, that boy's not too bright. Certainly. It doesn't mean I can't apply myself in times of crisis.

I think, perhaps, I will have a better shot at that doctorate now that Reuters has the videos. Wikileaks got a package, too, so don't think you can go pulling that grant money of yours to get out of this.

Don't mistake this for self-servience either, Doc. I didn't destroy your lab because I'm jealous, or so that I could be a hero and show the whole fucking world what you were doing - even though I did, you sick motherfucker, I already have - I did it because, plain and simple, I hate you. I hate you not just for the way you treated me and Allie. Not just for your daily putdowns, your ridiculous petty tasks just to keep us out of the way, your refusal to grant us credit on the papers or pay us more than a tenth of what was budgeted for our living expenses, none of that irrelevant shit is why I ruined your life and your career. I hate you on behalf of one hundred and thirty two others. That's right; I kept count, even if you never did, I kept the count of every single one of them and I sobbed myself to sleep every night I knew keeping it. Every fucking penny I make off this little sabotage is going to a trust fund for their families. The Alastair Lloyd Morton Fund.

So, you're asking yourself, if the little fucker finally got a shot of conscience, why's he using it now? Why after three and a half runs of testing, countless lies and atrocities later?

Truth is, Doc, I've been waiting. Not right from the beginning; all I knew right at the start, and for a good six months after - while you had me re-pot the fucking plants and help Allie cart bags of compost around and bring in boxes and boxes of shit you wouldn't even tell us about - was that your office smelled of shit, your greenhouse smelled even more fucked up, you hated the two of us, and it was the only job in mycology either of us were ever likely to see. We couldn't complain, and you knew it. Who else was gonna take on a pair of almost-dropouts from third-rate universities who couldn't even study fucking mushrooms properly?

So he and I trudged around your facility for months, doing things the cleaners couldn't be bribed to, slowly starting to wonder why you had all the resources you did. Do you remember making us polish every surface in the "sanitation room"? Didn't you think we'd question why there was a bed in there, Doc? A plastic one, like they put patients on in hospital? You'd have been better off covering it with a blanket and telling us it was for you. But you always did underestimate us, you elitist cunt. You were wise not to let us into the annexe of that room.

You'd have been wiser to keep us away from your testing lab, as well. Of course we saw the records. Of course we got bored, and went through them. Why were you testing anything on muscle fibre, let alone nutritional slurries? What the fuck did that have to do with mycology? I wish to God we'd never found out. I wish so hard, so passionately that you'd never even be capable of understanding it, that we'd just stuck to making out in there.

About a year in, I found your password left on a post-it under your keyboard. You stupid old man; that's the oldest trick in the book. You didn't keep much on your local machine - like any good paranoiac, you moved all the juicy stuff to the encrypted central servers - but I went through your temp files, and I found part of an email. I've sent that to Wikileaks as well. I found you acknowledging receipt of subjects. Three. Thank whatever fucked-up Gods exist that you compose your emails in a word processor; that's the only reason there was anything to find at all. Your technological ineptitude might just be what sees you go down in court.

So I gave you the benefit of the doubt. Your colleagues had nominated you for a fucking Nobel; who was I to assume you were talking about human subjects and not just rare - and really, really fucking expensive - mushrooms from Japan or something? I gave you my trust for far too long, Dr. Hawkins. Long after the greenhouse had become rank and the sanitation room positively foetid with that fucking smell, even though we bleached the floors every day and even though all you were growing in the hydroponic planters was standard garden fare. Long after Allie went on holiday and didn't come back.

You told me he quit, left you a very rude letter, you said, and like a fool I believed it. I couldn't even be happy for him; I was alternately pissed off that he hadn't told me so we could stick it to you together, and heartbroken. You see, I loved that man, Dr. Hawkins, and I believe he meant it when he said he loved me back. You didn't count on that, did you? I loved him so strongly it felt like my heart might stop. I took a week off and I cried in my quarters. I knew I'd never see him again.

You have no idea, Dr. Hawkins, no idea how much I want to kill you for making that not be the case. Some things are not meant to be; some things, the human mind is just not built to handle.

When I came back, you were nicer to me, now that I was the only one. You told me I was part of a team of two now, and that together, we would make great strides in the names of both biology and medical science. You'd discovered a mycoid organism, a new one. You'd found that it inhibited the growth of cancer cells. You'd been granted permission for a Phase Three clinical trial - I was so caught up in my hero's delusions of grandeur that I didn't even ask you where the animal studies were performed, or what the mechanisms were, did I? And all the better. In all my snooping afterward I never found any evidence that you'd thought about it. You told me we would be laureates. You told me that to prevent this information from falling into the wrong hands, neither of us would be allowed to speak of these experiments until the results were published. Like the little boy I was, I agreed.

I'm breaking your little agreement now, though, aren't I? I know that pisses you off just as much as the fallout will. I know, too, that you'll only be angry. You won't feel remorse. You won't feel shame. You'll see a world of pigs who don't understand science.

I understand science, Dr. Hawkins. It is a beautiful thing. You and what you did in that annexe have fouled it, maybe forever. I'm trying at least to rectify what I did to help you.

Can you believe that I even sterilised needles for you? I never questioned what you were doing to those people. I thought they were the standard Phase Three subjects; poor terminal bastards, either desperate for a cure at any cost or aware of their vital role in preventing the same thing happening to others, witting, willing. You fucking bastard.

So when you said there were problems, I didn't think. It was attacking their tendons as well as the cancerous cells, you said; I pitied them instead of helping. You hooked them to IV nutrients. The mycoid gave them headaches that made them scream, for a month or two, and you doped them up with the kind of barbiturates they usually use in anaesthesia. I didn't even know you had a medical degree. I bet the GMC will love to hear from you now. But they could still feel pain, couldn't they, Doc? They still screamed up until the third phase kicked in.

They were docile, after that, and silent, but you wouldn't let me in the annexe anymore. I told you if any of them attacked you again that I would help you. I don't even know what would have happened if they had. Would you have rotted there, on the sparkling floor, barely adding to the stench? Would that shit have breached contamination protocol and escaped into the rest of the facility?

It won't now. Your secretiveness made me suspicious all over again, and this time I decided to go one better than I had before; I keylogged your computer, with this little black gizmo I bought off eBay. You were barely ever in the old labs anymore, except to type up your reports. I daresay you didn't even type up the majority of it; you were too scared I'd find it, and you were right.

What you'd found ought to have been annihilated as soon as you found it. "Freya", as you called it - God knows why you chose a woman's name for it, you perverted motherfucker - seemed as if it'd been designed by some cosmic psychopath. Your first discovery of it had been in other fungi - colonising their cells, altering their growth patterns, their spore cycles, all kinds of strange systemic changes. You thought it was fascinating. I thought it was, too, until I read what you did with Freya next.

You decided to see whether it would grow on muscle fibre. You developed a fucked-up habit of referring to it as "she", too. So you tested it - Petri dishes of HeLa cells, stem cells, vat-grown tendons and muscles. It colonised them all. It did even stranger things with the stem cells. You kept going.

Rabbits, next, and after that, deer. We all know what happened after that. Allie didn't have a family back in Singapore like I do, did he? Nobody to write to. No father to update on his shit, no girlfriend to leave him over how much time he spent abroad trying not to be a fuck-up. You left a contaminated syringe in the sink, and you made him do the washing-up.

I didn't keep reading after that, Doc. No, no, I have a scientist's curiosity, even if I don't have a scientist's IQ; you didn't put your first subjects in the annexe. You kept the deer and rabbits in the spill-secured chemical sheds, so that your precious Freya would have room to be free without escaping your control. I went to see, to give you one last chance to just be a demented old man making stuff up and not a threat to humanity. I stole the key from your safe - 1-2-1-2? You foolish, foolish bastard - and I got a hazmat suit out of the stores, late at night, with the key you ought never to have given me.

He was huddled in a corner on his side, as if in horrible pain, although by this time I thought he must be dead. His skin was carpeted with masses of Freya's hairlike growths. I didn't even cry, not for hours afterward, but I felt the blood drain out of my face as I approached his body in the clouds of spores, and I thanked God I couldn't smell it. He'd put his hands up over his head trying to shut out the pain. Freya had frozen them there when she calcified his tendons. I knew she started out on the CNS - knew it took months before she got to the outside, so I knew for sure when I saw him covered in that vile down of little white strands that he'd never taken that holiday. He really did book one, too. You couldn't even give him that.

It took me longer than I like to remember to notice it, while I crouched there for an eternity too afraid to go any closer and too soul-shatteringly horrified to look away from his putrefying eyes, the strands that had emerged from within holding them open in rictus. I had kissed those eyelids. I had seen those eyes glitter with delight planning our petty pranks on you that we'd pull one day, later, when we had an apartment and somehow a job away from you. I was too busy looking at them to notice the rest.

You didn't tell me about the fourth phase, you bastard. I daresay by that point you were in too deep to think it was anything other than beautiful. I looked down for his name-tag in one last pathetic hope that maybe somehow it wasn't Allie, and I noticed the swelling. He had never been fat even before you started starving him, only an IV line connected to an empty drip bag feeding him and Freya both. I couldn't bring myself to pull back his coat with those fucking white threads all over it, even through the suit, so I looked around and found what you must have used - one of those remote grippers for hot glassware. I pulled back the fabric and lifted his sweater.

Everything. I saw everything. Oh, you were right about this one, weren't you, Doc? Your Freya was really something clever. I've never seen a parasitic organism that repurposes its host to quite that extent before. She was using his own nervous system, just like you'd suspected, as her surrogate soil; she colonised his spine and his eyes for food, she used his skin as shelter for her trunk-threads. She opened his torso into a thousand little cysts that winked at me like a lotus pod's myriad eyes, flowerpots for her spores, swollen with the gas they produced.

His gut was so distended, Dr. Hawkins, that I could see his heartbeat pulsing in the repurposed blood vessels. It was then that I ran. I didn't even have the courage to kill him. I spent longer in the decontamination showers than I have ever spent at once in your entire lab, took eight Valiums in my quarters, and sat down at my terminal to call a taxi, the decom team, and the police. After that, I did what you saw on the tapes; I got the fuel from the tractor, suited up, got as many people out as would believe me, and set your life's work ablaze. I purged Freya from this earth. I wish I'd gotten you too.

I've often wanted to kill myself. Lord knows I do now, after what I've helped you with, after what I've done. But I ran straight into the arms of the coppers instead of those of death, and I talked. To so many. I wanted to make sure. I took every bit of data you've ever typed, Doc, and I made sure it got to everyone I wanted it to. I used that to get your real data - the videos, all those people. Your clinical eyes. I swear to God I will avenge every one of them.

We'll have our day in court, Doc. But I swear on Allie's memory that you won't serve a day of that sentence. These blood-covered hands have one final task to do.

You and I are facing our Nuremberg, Dr. Hawkins. Just as justice demands, neither of us will come out of it alive.

[EOF]

17 comments:

Max said...

Nice. Is the female name a literary device for making the doctor look more like a sociopathic mad professor or is it another reference to HeLa cells, which are also named after a woman?

I find it kind of weird that someone with a master's degree in mycobiology would say a thing as 'I may not have a scientist's IQ, but I have a scientist's curiosity' - I for one would already be proud of myself for getting that MSc.

Incidentally, today's my birthday (which I find is a rather meaningless and arbitrary holiday, but oh well, human culture), so I'll take the liberty and see this as a birthday present. And you can't stop me from doing that.
Thanks for this, it made for an interesting read.

Max said...

Hang on, wasn't Freya that name that once appeared in one of your search engine posts because someone had been entering it over and over again?

Zeta-00 said...

I thought of the Norse goddess, though there's really no connection here ...
I enjoyed this.

Lepht said...

Max - i imagined that Freya would be the name of a woman the old doctor once loved, perhaps a dead wife. it was also a reference to HeLa in that its namesake is dead and has no idea what their legacy turned into, although HeLa really is beneficial and Freya is not.

the protagonist was meant to be a third-rate scientist, and also to have internalised a lot of the vitriol the professor threw at him, but i dunno if i wrote that properly. i fail at that shit sometimes.

i often write things for people's birthdays, although they're maybe not the kind of gift you'd actually want. happy birthday, then.

also, i can't remember about the searches; probably.

Zeta-00 - glad you enjoyed it. i was kind of thinking of the whole "sometimes life-providing, sometimes life-destroying mother" thing, but i can't remember if Frijja was actually that sort of goddess or if my head just made it up...

L

Zeta-00 said...

if I recall correctly, Freya is technically the goddess of many things, and I wouldn't be surprised if two of those were life and death.

Max said...

Lepht:
It was clear that the protagonist is supposed to be a third-rate scientist, I'm just saying that I don't understand how someone with a master's degree in anything (other than theology) can think of himself as an imbecile. Even a third-rate scientist counts to the smarter half of humanity. As long as the vitriol thing isn't to be taken literally, that came across well enough, too.

I take it those birthday gifts aren't the kind of dirty Limerick you sometimes come across on bathroom stall doors. So far, I've gobbled up and enjoyed every literary output you hurled at us.

(side note: went into the archives. It wasn't Freya, but Feyhra, whoever that is.)

Lepht said...

Zeta-00 - i seem to recall her having a destroying aspect. then again, i have delved a lot into myriad facets of ancient mythology while researching my rubbish - i mean novel - and i get it a little mixed up sometimes.

Max - facepalm time: in Scotland an MSc is an undergrad degree. i ought to have written BSc... mea culpa. also just about anyone can think they're dumb; alas, didn't come across properly. i will be a IRL RITER eventually. in the meantime, i appreciate the critique.

(Dr. Hawking, while sociopathic, would not waste perfectly good physical vitriol by throwing it at his useless assistants.)

the gifts are usually short stories... alas, i can't seem to keep the creepy out of them.

L

The white crow said...

I loved the way the shivers crept slowly down my spine as I sat there grinning at the horrific scenario playing out.

There's definitely talent there. You write in an engaging manner and with a living, breathing protagonist. Your style reminds me of Nick Sagan's writing, specifically that from the Idlewild-series.

I really believed in these characters, L. Don't you dare stop writing...

Lepht said...

thanks, Crow. unfortunately my writing is like Zalgo in that i don't know if i could stop once i started...

L

PS. no no no! Idlewild > Lepht.

The white crow said...

@L:
Haha. I Zalgoed the shower of a friend with soap and temporary black hair dye. It was nasty. Black foam everywhere. He screamed.

I'm towards the end of Everfree. Hooked like a fish.
You may not BE Nick Sagan, but you write in the same manner as he. You both make me itch to read more.

I'd like to see an ongoing set of short stories in the same universe, or maybe even the same storyline. Your SF-sense is exciting :P

Lepht said...

Crow - that made me laugh so hard i choked. i'm gonna fuck up someone in this house good with that. preferably i will get some black contacts and lie on the floor screaming about THE CORRUPTION as well.

irritatingly, before my last big dataloss i had exactly such a series of shorts, about a posthuman collective on Titan. perhaps i will rewrite some.

L

The white crow said...

Hey, if you're already into changing your physical being for lulz and SCIENZ, how about tattooing your eyeballs black? It'd be deadly awesome and horrifying. :D

Also, Zalgo would be present always.

Beware temp hairdye. It takes A LOT of rinsing to get out. I have to admit the dye was in my hair, and i realized the zalgity from looking at my hands. I called for him, clawing at the shower curtain with pitch black foaming hands growling ZAALGOOOOO. And his yelp was priceless. This is a guy more jaded than... Than me!

And don't worry too much about reproducing your titanic series. It IS an awesome moon, though.

Lepht said...

it would, but unfortunately i am too much of a pussy for eye stuff. i distinctly recall that before my body started failing and my life took a turn for the more physically intensive, i could not even touch my cornea without throwing up. my first IV line fucked me up bad too.

i know about the rinsing, i've dyed showers every colour of the fucking rainbow during the last ten years. goddamn stuff is a bitch to clean.

still, i wish i'd been there. it sounds pants-wettingly hilarious. THE CORRUP[TTINOAooooaaaAAAAAIIOOON

L

Anonymous said...

Hey - Just wanted to say, this is amazing. I really like it!

Lotte said...

Creeped me right out. Loved it to death. I wish I had someone I could show this to. Probably going to swipe a few of your word pairings without meaning to.

Lotte said...

Also mushrooms are fucking interesting. Also thank you.

Anonymous said...

Came in search of EMF sensing body mods, and found a soul-gripping story. Simply amazing. I will be freaked out for quite some time now.

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